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Solver The Last Mile is reducing recidivism through scalable in-prison tech education and post-incarceration mentorship.
America’s prison system has a five-year recidivism rate of 77 percent. Securing a well-paying job post-incarceration is incredibly challenging due to unjust stigma and a lack of opportunities for the incarcerated population to gain sought-after technical and digital skills. The Last Mile’s vocational training for high-demand jobs has proven to increase social mobility, open career pathways, and reduce recidivism. Founded at San Quentin, The Last Mile (TLM) has been custom-tailored to address mass incarceration and serve those in prison since its inception.
Carrie Murchsion, TLM Returned Citizen Advocate, joined Solve to discuss their work, TLM’s goals as a 2020 Solver, and how interested organizations can help end mass incarceration.
What do you hope to gain as a 2020 Solver with MIT Solve?
As a 2020 Solver, we hope to expand the impact of our program by building working relationships with Members of Solve’s community. We are excited to be a part of such a change-oriented community. Specifically, we’re hoping to collaborate with companies that are open to hiring The Last Mile (TLM) graduates as software engineers once they return to society. We aim to establish apprenticeship programs for TLM alumni at these companies. Our community of returned citizens is growing and we are eager to build a robust pipeline of employment opportunities for them to apply the skills they have learned through TLM.
How have your own life experiences and ambitions shaped your work with The Last Mile?
I am The Last Mile. I have a uniquely strong connection to the mission and purpose of our work having been directly impacted by our program prior to working here. This allows me to connect with our program participants and returned citizens in a way that I would not be able to otherwise. When discussing goals and opportunities with people in reentry, I understand where their fear and uncertainty is coming from. I can share my story and how I have dealt with the trauma that is associated with incarceration. There is a trust, mutual understanding, and respect that I am able to foster based on my personal life experience and incarceration.
What kinds of organizations does TLM want to collaborate with to reduce recidivism and upskill incarcerated people across the U.S.?
We believe that employment is the key to successful reentry and breaking the cycle of incarceration. There are three general areas in which we aim to collaborate with other organizations:
Education: Helping TLM best prepare our students for gainful employment, which might mean supporting the expansion of TLM’s curriculum to offer more certifications, training, and/or soft skills employers demand.
Reentry: Collaborating with TLM’s reentry department to offer post-release mentorship and support services to our returned citizens in areas such as resume development and job interview preparation.
Employment: Working with TLM to develop employment opportunities that TLM graduates would be qualified to apply for, such as apprenticeship programs.
Some of our current education partners include Hack Reactor, General Assembly, LinkedIn, Udacity, Kenzie Academy, and Cisco, while our hiring partners include Dropbox, Slack, Zoom, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, VMware, and more.
What are TLM’s goals for the next year? How can the Solve community help?
One of our primary goals is to expand our network of hiring partners. Companies that are part of Solve’s community can help by working with TLM to establish apprenticeship programs that graduates of our program are qualified to apply for. We are also launching our Music & Video Production (MVP) curriculum. In Q1 2021,we are piloting a new program that prepares students for technical audiovisual careers, with a continued roll out of the program thereafter. The Solve community can help by contributing subject matter or industry expertise that would support the development of the MVP curriculum.
Finally, we are continuing the development of TLM’s reentry department. As more TLM participants return home and our returned citizen community grows, it is critical that we continue refining the operations and services of our reentry department. Primarily, TLM’s reentry team focuses on career-oriented support, but returning citizens experience a wide variety of obstacles that might obstruct their path to employment, such as finding stable housing. The Solve community can help by supporting TLM’s reentry department in establishing a network of resources and solutions that address the problems people face when returning home from prison.
What advice would you give to aspiring social entrepreneurs trying to solve complex problems?
My advice for any person trying to solve a problem for others is to be certain of the problem itself and get to know the individuals who are affected by this problem. The issue of mass incarceration is a result of the government’s attempt to solve rising crime rates. Legislation such as the “Three Strikes” law proved to be ineffective and unjust because it did not take into consideration the individuals who were involved in the stated problem. The reason The Last Mile’s program works so well is that justice-involved people have a seat at the table in the solution’s development. Founded at San Quentin, The Last Mile has been custom-tailored to address mass incarceration and serve those in prison since its inception.
Interested in partnering with The Last Mile? Get in touch with Joel Jaquez at Joel.Jaquez@solve.mit.edu.